By Tom Plank
Fifty years ago, when I began my ministry, no one was talking about leadership, so everything I have learned has been by trial and error. One thing I have learned is that leadership begins at the top with the minister. People will not follow what you say so much as what you do.
Set the example. All too often I have been around ministers who expected to be first in line for a carry-in dinner and the first to receive a compliment. These are the ministers who lose their effectiveness because they leave the impression it is all about them. A real leader will be the last through the serving line, the first to help fold up chairs, and the first to set examples of giving for a special financial campaign.
Hire the best you can find. It is absolutely essential that a church team be built with people who love the work of our Lord, who are proficient in their field, and who are easy to get along with. It is amazing how many church ministers and team members cannot stand to be around each other. A person may be great in his field, but if he cannot relate to the others with whom he must work, he becomes a drag to the overall focus of the church.
Let them do their job. Preachers tend to be either too controlling or totally disconnected from the staff. I am not a fan of a staff meeting every week at a certain time.
There are often things that come up that do not require the entire staff.
So, periodic meetings are held with our full team to set the course for the coming weeks. Then I meet with staff members individually to refine their particular involvement. Once that is done, I turn the workers loose to do their job. If you cannot do this, it indicates you either do not trust them or they are not proficient at their job.
Stay put. It is difficult to develop a sense of leadership within the church if the preacher moves around a lot. Trust is only developed over a period of time—sometimes a long period of time. Church problems are pretty much the same within every congregation, and moving from place to place does not change what one must face. So, stay put. Earn the right to be heard.
Once you have done this, you might be surprised how much your congregation depends upon your leadership as, together, you continue to grow.
Tom Plank served as senior minister with Galilee Christian Church, Jefferson, Georgia. He has retired after 50 years of service.